amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

TREAT Asia Will Coordinate MSM Interventions Network in Asia

Program to serve as Secretariat for the Network of HIV Prevention, Care, Treatment and Support Services in Asia’s Greater Mekong Sub-region

BANGKOK (April 27, 2006)—TREAT Asia, a program of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, has signed a contract with Family Health International’s Asia Regional Program (FHI/ARP) to serve as the Regional Coordination Secretariat for a new network of HIV programs for men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. The Secretariat will initially be funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Regional Development Mission/Asia (USAID RDM/A) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Global AIDS Program (CDC/GAP).

The network consists of more than 80 governmental and non-governmental organizations working to prevent and treat HIV among MSM in six countries: Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi provinces), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Countries in this region have seen a rise in the number of HIV-positive MSM in recent years. For instance, surveys in Thailand show that in 2003 HIV prevalence among MSM in Bangkok was 17.3%. By 2005, that figure had risen to 28.3%, an alarming increase of 64%. Based on other research undertaken in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the estimated range of HIV prevalence in MSM is between 6 and 30%.

“Although many people in Southeast Asia are especially vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, no single population has experienced as steep a rise in infection rates as men who have sex with men,” said Kevin Frost, who directs the TREAT Asia program. “Risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, commercial sex and injection drug use, tell us that targeted outreach to this population is vital to reducing the number of new infections and improving treatment for those already living with HIV and AIDS.”

Two meetings of MSM program implementers and donors convened in 2005 by USAID, FHI, and CDC brought together representatives from Ministries of Public Health, NGOs, and United Nations organizations. These meetings resulted in the development of a conceptual framework for MSM interventions and a “Two-Year Vision Plan” laying out priority strategies to decrease HIV infection rates and mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on MSM and their families. The goal of the Secretariat is to strengthen the capacity of groups to develop and advocate for programs, services and policies needed to implement the conceptual framework and the two-year plan. The Secretariat will provide three types of support to Network organizations: 1) operational and administrative support; 2) technical support; and 3) network development.

“We are proud to be given the responsibility of coordinating this effort,” said Jerome J. Radwin, amfAR’s Chief Executive Officer. “Men who have sex with men are a stigmatized population in Asia, too often falling under the radar of prevention, care and support services. AIDS will continue to expand in Asia until there are coordinated and effective programs targeting prevention among MSM.”

The Secretariat will be housed at the Bangkok regional office of TREAT Asia. Over the last five years, TREAT Asia has been instrumental in developing programs to address AIDS in Asia, creating the first-ever HIV Observational Database in the region and establishing two programs focused on strengthening civil society. It is particularly well suited for the network development role, having developed the TREAT Asia network of 28 clinical sites.

ABOUT amfAR 

amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $250 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

About TREAT Asia

TREAT Asia (Therapeutics Research, Education, and AIDS Training in Asia) is a network of clinics, hospitals, and research institutions working together with civil society to ensure the safe and effective delivery of HIV/AIDS treatments throughout Asia and the Pacific. Facilitated by amfAR, TREAT Asia seeks to strengthen HIV/AIDS care, treatment, and management skills among health care professionals through education and training programs developed by experts in the region.